“Doesn’t it seem to you that acting against one’s will, under protest and compulsion, is tantamount to being a slave?” – Epictetus, Discourses, Book 4.1.11

We are all a slave to something: work, drink, drugs, sex, social media. The list can be endless.

We are a slave if we act against our own will, if we are listening to others and not living our own lives.

“All our decisions, impulses, desires, or aversions come from within us. No evil can force its way here.” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book 8.28

Why do we seek approval of others?

We have to live with ourselves. Only our opinion really matters; however, we are more concerned with others opinions.

“It never ceases to amaze me: we all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinion than our own.” Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book 12.4

Are you ready to die for your beliefs, your lifestyle? Would you die for what someone else thinks of you?

“Apropos of which, Diogenes says somewhere that one way to guarantee freedom is to be ready to die.” – Epictetus, Discourses, Book 4.1.30

In today’s day and age we may not have to go to those extremes, but the message still carries.

If you are not willing to die for what you do every day, for what you believe in, you are a slave. A slave to someone else’s opinion, a slave to outside forces.

Worry about what you think. Do what you know is right. Have integrity. That will make you free.


“I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to reduced by it.” – Maya Angelou

Everything that happens changes you.

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” – Heraclitus

Life is like the river. After something happens you are not the same person.

That doesn’t mean what happens to you should bring you down, but it should change you.

You should learn from it.

“A rational being can turn each setback into raw material and use it to achieve its goal.” Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book 8.35

Setbacks should be used as fuel, fuel to get better, fuel to achieve your goal.

Giving up is not an option.

Life will never get easier. It will keep dragging you down if you let it.

However, if you focus on what you can control, you can move forward.

Even in the most horrifying circumstances, if you focus on what is in your control, it doesn’t make it easier, but it makes it tolerable.

Epictetus was a slave for most of his life. He had is leg permanently destroyed by a cruel owner, but he didn’t let that circumstance reduce him.

“They (the gods) made you responsible only for what is in your power – the proper use of impressions. So why take on the burden of matters which you cannot answer for? You are only making unnecessary problems for yourself.” – Epictetus, Discourses, Book 1:12:34-35

Now that is easier said than done considering the evil that human beings can do to one another.

Two prime examples are the horrific conditions that Viktor Frankl and Admiral James Stockdale had to endure.

Viktor Frankl was imprisoned in Theresienstadt and then Auschwitz. He lost his whole family to the horror. He however did not let it reduce him.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” – Viktor Frankl

James Stockdale was shot down over North Vietnam and spent seven years as a prisoner in the Hanoi Hilton prison camp.

“You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.” — Admiral James Stockdale.

Very few of us will have to suffer the horror that these men endured. Could you?

Many of us melt when we are hit with the slightest setback.

How do we soldier on?

We take it one day at at time. If it’s bad we focus on ten minutes at a time. If it’s really bad focus on the next minute.

Focus on what you control. We do not control what happens to us. We only control how we react.

What Are You Worth

“You are the only one who knows yourself – which is to say, you know how much you are worth in your own estimation, and therefore at what price you will sell yourself; because people sell themselves at different rates.” – Epictetus, Discourses, Book 1:2:11

What is your price?

We all have a price. Depending on circumstances the price may change.

Should we look down on a prostitute?

Would you do the same under the circumstances?

I don’t think anyone could say truthfully without walking in their shoes.

You may not sell your body, but you are willing to sell yourself for jobs, friends, etc.

Are you any better?

“Consider at what price you sell your integrity; but please for God’s sake, don’t sell it cheap.” – Epictetus, Discourses, Book 1:2:33

Most people would find selling their body disgusting but they are willing to sell their integrity for nothing.

Which is worse?

“‘But the tyrant will chain…?’ What will he chain? Your leg? ‘He will chop off…?’ What? Your head? What he will never chain or chop off is your integrity.” – Epictetus, Discourses, Book 1:18:17

Life will present you with opportunities to sell your integrity. Are you willing to do that for short term gains?

To what end?

Will you be able to look yourself in the mirror every day?

If you have to make certain decisions to survive, who will judge you?

If you can look yourself in the mirror and know you made the best decision you could then what others think about you doesn’t matter.

Focus on what you can control. Other people’s perceptions of what you have done is not something you can control.

If they haven’t walked in your shoes then their opinion doesn’t matter.

But when you are making those decisions don’t sell your integrity cheap.

Do what you have to do but make sure you can look your self in the mirror afterwards.